Monday 23 September 2019

Inspirational young GAA player paralysed by freak fall during Storm Emma vows to fulfill his dreams

Accident: Jack O’Driscoll
Accident: Jack O’Driscoll

Ralph Riegel

A YOUNG sportsman left paralysed by a freak fall during Storm Emma has vowed to now fulfil his life ambitions sitting down rather than standing.

Jack O'Driscoll (20) issued the vow as he admitted he was thrilled at being able to move back to his native Cork from a specialist Dublin hospital after nine months of intensive treatment - and said his Christmas wish is now to be able to move back to his Mayfield home by February.

"Whatever happened has happened," he said.

"I might not have any movement in my hands or anything but I can still go out and achieve whatever I ever wanted to achieve.

Jack O'Driscoll suffered a serious injury to his spine in the fall on March 1
Jack O'Driscoll suffered a serious injury to his spine in the fall on March 1

"Fair enough - I got the injury and I have been left in a wheelchair.

"But I can go on and do whatever I want to in life - I am just going to do it sitting down instead of standing up."

Jack's home is now the focus of major refurbishment campaign to make it wheelchair-friendly.

The teen was the focus of a special GoFundMe appeal supported by Cork's 96FM which raised €139,380 in the space of nine months.

He was also a beneficiary of the Liam Miller memorial charity match at Pairc Uí Chaoimh last September between an Ireland XI and a Manchester United XI.

Some €100,000 from the match's €1.5m proceeds will go to the Jack O'Driscoll Fund which aims to convert Jack's Mayfield home and make it suitable for his new lifestyle needs.

"I am trying to get a little bit more independence back every single day," he said.

"I'm working on things like feeding, eating sandwiches or managing drinks.

"But my ultimate aim is to be able to push a manual wheelchair and be able to transfer myself in and out of my chair."

Jack was an environmental science student at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) but he now hopes to switch to a career in counselling.

"Since I got the injury my interests have changed," he said.

Jack admitted he was overwhelmed by the scale of public support for him and his family since March.

"It is absolutely incredible - it has been unbelievable. I didn't expect anything like this. I cannot thank everyone enough especially the Liam Miller Fund."

The young man from Mayfield had been in the High Dependency Unit (HDU) at the Mater Hospital in Dublin before transferring to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire.

Jack, a keen sportsman, was walking to his Mayfield home in Cork in adherence with the red alert from Met Eireann before Storm Emma hit last spring when he suffered a freak fall in the snow and ice.

Tragically, the young man suffered a serious injury to his spine in the fall on March 1 which occurred two hours before the full storm warning came into effect.

Jack fractured the C5 vertebrae in his neck.

He has been left paralysed from the shoulders down but, thanks to surgery and intensive rehabilitation, has slowly been recovering some movement in his arms.

Now, Jack's wish of returning to Cork in time for Christmas has been fulfilled.

His cousin, Daniel Dilworth, said the former GAA and soccer player has stunned everyone with both his courage and determination.

"We fully realise what Jack could be left with," he said.

"Because the injury is in the spinal cord it takes a bit of time for the bruising and swelling to go down.

"It is a journey that has been going on for a couple of months now but we are beginning to see real improvements in Jack.

"It will then come to a point where it will plateau and we will see what Jack will have for the rest of his life.

"But Jack is getting on with it - he is positive, he is determined and he is driving on."

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